Granit Xhaka says fans who hurl personal abuse on social media are “not supporters of my club” and that he wishes he could challenge the perpetrators face to face.
The Arsenal midfielder has had a chequered relationship with his club’s fanbase and his family have also been targeted online, particularly after his stormy departure from the home game against Crystal Palace in October 2019. There have been issues this season too and he says those involved are not genuine Arsenal fans.
“I don’t see them as supporters for my club,” said Xhaka, who spoke at length on the topic in an in-depth interview with the Guardian this month. “Of course, you can criticise or say what you want about football, but not about the person, not about the family. I think this is two pairs of shoes, about the football and about the person. If one guy is a ticket holder for the club and he speaks like this about his own players I don’t think he gets respect from our side first and from other people.
“It’s not a problem when you win. If you lose everyone hates you, everyone is writing you things where it’s not possible to understand how they’re writing stuff like this. I wish I could meet the people who write these things, to sit with them eye to eye and ask him: ‘Why are you writing things like this?’ Not only for me personally because it happens a lot in the past few weeks, but only to know what he’s feeling in this moment when he writes things like this.
“It is not acceptable, so we have to open our eyes and speak a lot because I think you kill football like this if people start to talk about a family or player or things like this.”
Xhaka is among several Arsenal players – and many in the Premier League – to have been targeted online. Last week his teammates Willian and Eddie Nketiah received racially abusive messages on social media platforms.
Arsenal face Benfica in Athens on Thursday for the “home” leg of their Europa League last-32 tie, poised at 1-1. Winning Europe’s secondary competition is their likeliest route to the Champions League and Mikel Arteta, who may be able to welcome back Thomas Partey from injury, described the tie as “a final”. He hopes his players respond.
“When you play in these competitions and these games, finals too, it’s the pressure that you want,” he said. “I really enjoy the pressure of winning and to be here and to represent this club you have to be prepared to do that. If not, you don’t belong here.”